Paul's Ministry at Rome
"And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: 'Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.' Then they said to him, 'We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere'" (Acts 28:17-22).

After arriving in Rome, Paul the evangelist wastes little time getting to work. Although he is under house arrest, he is able to invite the Jewish leaders in that area to his residence to speak with them. It is apparent that these Jews were not Christians, though they were not hostile unbelievers. Had Paul been free, no doubt he would have met these same Jews in the synagogue, as was his custom in each city he visited.

As Paul speaks to the Jewish leaders, he begins respectfully and emphasizes his innocence and their common ground (e.g., "our people...our fathers"). Ultimately, Paul states that he is bound in chains, not for a crime, but "for the hope of Israel" (which he will expound upon later), but initially he explains why he appealed to Caesar. The Romans had found Paul innocent and he didn't have anything of which to accuse the Jewish nation before Rome, but he ended up appealing to Caesar as a defensive measure against the Jews who wanted so badly to kill him. The Romans protected an imprisoned Paul for years and Luke makes no record of the hatred and persecution of the unbelieving Jews following the apostle to Rome. In fact, these Jews to whom Paul is speaking are ignorant of any evil charges against him. They had received no letters from Jerusalem against Paul and no messengers had come condemning him. However, they are aware of the fact that the church ("sect," as they call it) is "spoken against everywhere." Despite this fact, they are open to hearing from Paul about Christianity. Obviously, these Jews are more receptive than their Judean brethren.

"So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. So when they did not agree among themselves they departed after Paul has said one word: 'The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying,
"Go to this people and say: 'Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed. Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.'"

Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!' And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves" (Acts 28:23-29).

When the appointed day arrived, Paul did not preach for 30 minutes or an hour; he taught persuasively "from morning till evening"! Why? The answer is simple. This was not an occasion for merely providing information but a serious effort to save these precious souls who knew little about God's kingdom that had been established by Christ. Paul masterfully used the Old Testament to explain and testify of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. We today must depend upon the Scriptures for our teachings and practices as well. Christianity is not a system grounded in speculation or emotionalism; rather, it is based upon solid historical data that should be presented with persuasive logic. The apostle likely only had this one occasion to reach some of these souls and he didn't squander it (there is a lesson here for all servants of God, particularly evangelists). He spoke the words of truth and life that they needed to hear. Although we do not know how many embraced the gospel that day, Luke records that "some were persuaded." But, there were some who disbelieved, too (perhaps the majority).

As the unbelievers were leaving, Paul spoke some words containing a sentiment he (and others; cf. Matt. 13:14,15) had expressed before. He quoted Isaiah 6:9,10 to convey the fact that the gospel would not cease to be proclaimed when spiritually blind and hard-hearted Jews reject it. Rather, the message would be extended to Gentiles (who typically were more open to it)! God desires to heal all spiritually, but He will not forgive the sins of those who refuse to believe and obey His Son. This led to a "great dispute" among the Jews.

"Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him" (Acts 28:30,31).

It is hard to find satisfaction in Luke's closing verses to this great book of Acts due to our natural curiosities. Luke concludes by informing us that Paul was under house arrest in Rome for two years and had many opportunities to both preach and teach the gospel without interference. At least four books of the New Testament were written during this span of two years (i.e., Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, & Philemon; those who believe Paul wrote Hebrews would also add it to the list here). But, what then Luke? Did Paul stand before Caesar? Was he released after two years? Since God promised Paul that he would stand before Caesar, we are confident such happened though we have no record of it. Historians believe that Paul was freed and then later arrested again. This abrupt ending is a small piece of evidence for the book's divine inspiration; no author, directed solely by human impulses, would have left the story so unfinished. One thing is for certain: Paul had a good attitude about his incarceration, writing in Philippians 1:12 - "But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel." When he was first arrested and held in Jerusalem, he likely did not see the great good that would come from being in chains. But, years of imprisonment have opened his eyes. Though there were still challenges, opportunities were available even as a prisoner for him to serve Christ and preach Him as the crucified and risen Savior! Friends, there is a great lesson here for us: Do what you can to serve and honor the Lord the best you can in whatever circumstances you find yourself. God can work even the most undesirable of situations for "the furtherance of the gospel."

Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.